Did You Know? 'Lack of sufficient sleep is as bad as being drunk' - Oxford neuroscientist

Foster's comments come on the heels of studies which suggest that working night shifts speeds up the ageing process, and is linked to increasing risks of cancer, heart disease and type two diabetes.

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Not getting enough sleep can be dangerous to health, and there has been a call to frown on the habit.

This is according to Prof Russell Foster, a neuroscientist from the University of Oxford.

Foster's comments come on the heels of studies which suggest that working night shifts speeds up the ageing process, and is linked to increasing risks of cancer, heart disease and type two diabetes.

He therefore called for a change in attitudes towards getting an early night.

According to Foster,

“There certainly is a culture of, well I only had five hours of sleep last night how fantastic am I? In fact, we should be looking down on those sort of things - in the same way that we frown upon smoking I think we should start to frown upon not taking our sleep seriously.”

Foster raised concern that sleep deprivation could cause risks not just in jobs such as healthcare and transport, where dangers were obvious, but also could damage the quality of crucial decisions.

He added that lack of sleep damages a whole host of skills - empathy, processing information, ability to handle people as well as leads to overly impulsive, impaired thinking, because of this problem.

Foster said many of those who rise before dawn were unaware of just how badly it could affect the functioning of their brain.

Said Foster,

“At four o clock in the morning our ability to process information is similar to the amount of alcohol that would make us legally drunk – as bad as if we had a few whiskies or beers,”

He said overall lack of rest was enough to cause lack of attention, accidental “microsleeps”  such as dozing off at the wheel - as well as reduced ability to process thoughts.

According to Telegraph, last year French research showed the brains of workers who had done night shifts for about 10 years had aged by an extra 6 and a half years.

Study participants in the University of Toulouse, found they had lower scores for memory, processing speed and overall brain function than those working normal office hours.

Lack of sleep has been linked with factors such as disrupted metabolism and raised levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, all of which may lead to higher blood pressure and increased stroke risk.

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